My Word For 2017: Cultivate

This year, I'm eschewing resolutions in lieu of a word that will help guide our farm endeavors for the year.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Dupree

New Year’s resolutions can be tough. Usually, I’m gung-ho about them for the first couple months of the year, but by December, I can barely remember what I’ve committed myself to, let alone know if I actually accomplished what I set out to do. I already have a lot of goals for our new farm—I’m sure that list will be ever-growing as long as we inhabit this place—so instead of resolving to complete one, or even several, of them by the end of 2017, I’ve decided to select a word to be the theme of the year instead.

A word of the year is meant to inspire, not confine. It allows for the fluidity reflected in the nature around us. Instead of being a set goal that can be broken or not fit with the direction our lives happen to take throughout the year, the word is meant to guide the way we approach the goals we make and the obstacles we come across.

The word I’ve settled on for 2017 is cultivate.

This word, which means “to foster the growth of,” may seem like an obvious choice for first-time farmers, but I hope Mr. B and I will be cultivating a lot more than our garden this year. While that’s definitely a biggie, there’s a lot more wrapped up in this word that I hope will make us better farmers—and thus, better people—in the year ahead.

Cultivate Home

The weird thing about moving into a house where someone else once lived is that it doesn’t immediately feel like yours. The energy of the previous owners tends to linger long after they’ve gone. While the parts left behind can often be wonderful—in our case, the owners left us with a beautiful house they designed themselves and a great vision for the land—it can take some time for a place to really feel like yours.

One of the best pieces of advice I received before we moved to the farm was to work the area around our home first, and then move outward from there. This idea, borrowed from permaculture, implies that the setting up of a home is indeed a process. If you think of cultivating a garden plot, first you have to plow and then plant, water, fertilize and do some weeding before you get your juicy red tomatoes or hearty butternut squashes. The same goes for a home: Some cultivation must occur before you get that warm, cozy feeling of having a place where you can truly let go and relax.

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Cultivate Relationships

For urban transplants like us, the idea of moving to the country, somewhat isolated from our existing social world, was an intimidating notion. While we were looking for peace from the frantic pace of city life, we also knew we’d miss being a short drive from our friends and support system. Thankfully, we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of our new neighbors, who have made an effort to get to know us and introduce us to others in the area.

It can be easy for an introvert like me to get swallowed up in the solitude of farm life, but I know it’s important to maintain and grow these relationships, even if it means a ride through the forest and over the hill to connect with someone on a day when I’m hot and sweaty with a never-ending to-do list. At this point in time, I don’t know what kind of relationships we’ll be cultivating—I know we’ve yet to meet many of the people who will influence our lives here—but I know that returning the acts of generosity and kindness that we’ve already been shown will be part of that process.

Cultivate Identity

Since we moved to our farm nearly 6 months ago—oh, how time flies!—I’ve really struggled with who I am now. Some people have said to me, “You’re the same person you’ve always been.” My answer to that is, well, yes and no. Certainly my personality and ideals haven’t changed, but so much else has, from the length of my commute and the way I prioritize my week to the people I hang out with and the chores I do.

A year ago, never would I have imagined that I would be figuring out how to clean the chimney to a wood stove or clearing drip tape out of a garden over my Christmas holiday. Where before I dreamed of a flock of backyard chickens, I now have to consider if I want to go through the trouble of erecting a fence to keep out coyotes and foxes when I have farmer friends who grow organic eggs much more efficiently than I ever could. Going out on a Friday night seems a lot less appealing than going home and checking up on my bees, and a “relaxing” Saturday afternoon has taken on a whole new meaning. Where I once took pride in being a city girl who was up for any adventure, I often question if I have the moxie to take on what is quite possibly the biggest adventure I’ve ever endeavored.

I’m definitely not your average country girl—and I’m not sure I ever will be or will ever want to be—but moving here to this farm, I’ve left behind a piece of me. Perhaps it was a piece of me that needed shedding, but now this whole new layer is exposed and now I must figure out what do with it.

Cultivate Creativity

Finally, one area of my life where I’d like to see more cultivation is in creativity. I’ve noticed that since moving, much of the conversation Mr. B and I have is around what we are going to do. We’re going to mow, chop wood, clear out the garden, clean the shed, fix the UTV. Don’t get me wrong: I’m so happy that we have the chance to do good hard work and do it together, but among all the to-do’s that can pile up on a farm, it’s important to leave time to create, ponder, appreciate and imagine, as well. Part of why we moved here in the first place was because of our love for nature and the clarity it brings to our minds and hearts.

I can’t wait to see where a little fostering of these things will take us in the new year, and I hope you, too, will settle on a word that will help you navigate farm life in the year ahead. If you do, share it in the comments below.

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